India stands on the brink of being awarded its biggest ever football tournament, with even Fifa officials clearly stating that the country is the favourite to host the 2017 under-17 World Cup. However, a tardy All India Football Federation (AIFF) has yet to get its bid in place despite assurances that the bid would have been finalised by last April.
AIFF general secretary Kushal Das was quoted in media, even before Fifa president Sepp Blatter’s visit in March this year that the bid would be finalised before this summer’s annual Fifa Congress in Zurich. However, having long missed that deadline India will now have to get its bid ready before September 26 to give the Fifa executive committee a chance to finalise the bid.
Fifa general secretary Jerome Valcke, here on a four-day visit, said on the sidelines of a media conference on Wednesday that the world body is eager to use the U-17 finals as a platform to help India ‘became a player at the highest level’. He added that, “with the U-17 World Cup, one of aims is to use the tournament to develop football in the country. It’s difficult to do so with the Fifa World Cup because of the large sums of money involved, but with the U-17 meet we can help countries get their infrastructure right.”
“Fifa believes if there is one country in Asia that we need to focus, it is India. The U-17 World Cup would be a perfect milestone. We would ask the executive committee to let India host the U-17 WC in 2017,” said Valcke, all but assuring India the rights if it gets its bid in place.
He added that Fifa will announce the winning bid before the end of the calendar year. If the AIFF gets its papers ready by September 26, it could be up for discussion at the next Fifa executive committee on September 26-27. Else, the matter will be decided on the sidelines of the World Club Championship in Tokyo in December.
Valcke added that hosting the U-17 World Cup would put India on the football map in the way no other tournament can. “All the countries that play football, will focus on India for this particular event. All the countries will plan, with India in mind.”
The Frenchman, who has been the world body’s general secretary since 2007, added that Fifa would also help finance a large part of the tournament, except for the money spent on infrastructure and stadium development.
Notwithstanding the recent Nehru Cup triumph, India on Wednesday slipped a place down to 169th in FIFA rankings, its worst in recent years.